Learning About Plate Tectonics Through Argument-Writing

  • Perry D. Klein University of Western Ontario
  • Boba Samuels University of Western Ontario

Abstract

In a quasi-experimental study (N=60), grade 7/8 teachers students were taught to write arguments in content-area subjects. After instruction, students drew on document portfolios to write on a new topic: “Do the continents drift?” In a MANCOVA, students who participated in argument instruction scored significantly higher than a control class on the combination of dependent variables. A stepwise discriminant analysis indicated that instruction most strongly affected argument genre knowledge, which in turn accounted for variance in the other dependent variables. The features of argument texts that were most strongly associated with science learning were: the number of argument moves, the number of science propositions taken up from source documents, text length, and text coherence. These results support a constructivist model of writing to learn in which students use genre knowledge to select information from source documents and construct genre-specific relationships among ideas.

Author Biographies

Perry D. Klein, University of Western Ontario
Perry Klein is an associate professor in the Faculty of Education. His research concerns writing education and the role of writing in content-area learning. He teaches courses in educational psychology and literacy.
Boba Samuels, University of Western Ontario
Boba Samuels is a doctoral candidate in the Faculty of Education. Her research interests include students’ academic writing development, writing across the curriculum, and transdisciplinary research.
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